Interview: Naughty Dog On Uncharted 3

Uncharted 3, the Golden Abyss and how Naughty Dog works.

If you’re a regular reader of TSA you’ll know about worryingly good Nathan Drake look-a-like Kev Adsett, he’s a massive Uncharted fan and – as you’ll see below – rather good at interviews too.  He spoke to Naughty Dog last week, chatting about their latest game, playing other games and the PlayStation Vita.

It really is very interesting stuff, particularly hearing about the Uncharted 3’s online pass from Naughty Dog’s perspective, so I’ll pass you over to Kev as he chats to Justin Richmond and Arne Meyer.

Kev Adsett: I’m here with Naughty Dog’s Justin Richmond (game director) and Arne Meyer (community strategist); Justin, Arne, Hi!

Both: Hello.

KA: We’re about to embark on Drake’s third PS3 adventure. When making the game, were there any lessons that you’ve learnt from the previous two games that you implemented here?

Justin Richmond: Sure, I mean, we never want to make the same mistakes twice, right? We’ll make a whole bunch of new mistakes, but we’re not gonna make the same ones again. So when we looked at Uncharted 2, it was an amazing game and I think it still stands up, but one of the comments people said was that they felt there was a little too much gunfire at the end of the game.

We did a couple of things to combat that: we added a whole new melee system into the game so now you can fight multiple guys at the same time, bar brawl-style stuff. Putting that allows us to have more different types of interactions with the enemies, so that was one way to combat that. We also added in a whole new style of puzzle to this game. The puzzles in Uncharted 1 and 2 were basically “open the journal, here’s the answer, implement that in the world” but this time we actually make you think, and we put some stuff in there that makes you go “Oh! I’ve actually gotta figure this out”. Both those things, I think, combined, were a big deal.

We also looked at the pacing, trying to make sure it feels like you aren’t ever in one place for too long, and the pace goes up and down throughout the entire game instead of spiking in certain spots and then completely falling off. We tried to bring the up and down moments into closer cohesion with the gameplay so you feel like you’re on this adventure even more than last time.

Another thing we learnt was that the harder stuff you should start early! The earlier you can get onto the cargo plane or the cruise ship in this game, the better off you are. It’s still really hard to do, but yeah.

KA: I noticed you mentioned the combat, and how you can now fight multiple opponents. Do you look to any other games when you’re developing combat systems, for inspiration and the like?

JR: Sure, we played every brawler out there. We played Batman, we played God of War. I mean, we’d already all played these games, but we definitely look at what people thought of them, and what things we thought were fun and successful and then tried to take the lessons from those other games. We never want to reinvent the wheel if we don’t have to.

Our design goal was to make something that’s really fluid and fun, that anybody can pick up and play, and isn’t too complex, and so to try to do that and still make the game feel fun was one of the lessons we learnt from Uncharted 2. You want anybody to be able to pick it up, but a master to be able to do deeper stuff, and so it’s the same thing in the melee system.

KA: Great stuff. All the Uncharted games have been huge in terms of storyline and performance, and obviously all-importantly, the emotional attachment you have with the characters and the involvement there. What are the challenges, particularly for this medium, in bringing that level of emotional detail to the game?

JR: I think it’s really hard to make people care about your characters in any medium, let alone videogames. In videogames, it’s hard because you have interactivity, right? You have to allow the player to play! You can’t just force them into scenarios or force them into certain things without it feeling false or stupid, so we try to keep you in control as much as possible to make you feel like you really are playing as Nathan Drake.

Other than that, Amy Hennig, our creative director is a really good writer and she writes characters that are interesting and believable. When you get that combined with us trying to meld the gameplay into the story as much as possible, really interweaving the story with the gameplay, you get a really good result, but I do think it’s hard to create interesting characters that people want to know about, just in general, and I think we’re very lucky to work with the people that we do, to bring that to life.

[drop]KA: Yeah, I think something Uncharted particularly does really well is the seamless integration from cut scene to in-game. I know some games suffer from a little loading time in between those things, and Uncharted definitely crosses that barrier.

JR: Yeah we definitely spent a lot of time on our technology trying to prevent that from happening. You know, there are no load screens anywhere in the game – you load once at the beginning and that’s it, and that’s always the way it’s been in Uncharted. It’s super-important for us to maintain that, and it’s really difficult to do!

Sometimes we’re just like “dammit, just get a load screen, it’d be awesome”, but you know one thing people don’t realise is that we’re not actually loading under our cut scenes. People think we’re loading levels behind there, but we’re not. The level of fidelity we want from our cut scenes is so high that we can’t afford to do anything other than play off the disk, so when you finish a level, you actually already have the next level in memory, so even if you skip the cut scene, you can still play. It’s all those little tiny things that we take into account.

Arne Meyer: What was that thing you were saying earlier too about our IGCs? We’re taking control away from the player, but we’re trying to do it in such a way that you don’t even realise when control is back.

JR: Yeah yeah, we wanna make it feel like “Oh! Wow”

KA: Yeah I was going to mention that actually, I was playing Uncharted 2 earlier, in preparation for this, and there’s the scene in Nepal where the truck is chasing after you, and suddenly it’s up to you to run away now, and it’s exactly that “oh it’s me now!” moment.

JR: Yeah exactly, and there’s a bunch of moments like that in this game too where it’s like “oh, woah I’ve gotta go!” so yeah there’s plenty of that kind of thing, for sure.

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26 Comments

  1. Excellent interview Kev.

    • Thanks. I couldn’t believe how much text 15 minutes of talking turned into!

    • i imagine being interviewd by a character from thier own games must have felt very strange

      • Heh, I should have tried to do the whole thing in a Drake voice.

  2. Really looking forward to UC3, the multiplayer demo is great, the single player will be even better I’m sure.

    One thing though, I cannot find out if we are getting the Starhawk Beta with the Euro / UK copies – anyone got any leads?

    • We are.

      • thanks Nofi, are you sure, any particular version or shall I just preorder from anywhere?

      • Ah – found for myself now, couldn’t see that on Friday:

        In a statement from the company, Sony said:

        “We can confirm that customers in Europe who purchase Uncharted 3 get access to the Starhawk beta. Codes will be sent via email early 2012.”

        I’m so amped about Starhawk, nice to know I’ll get ‘first’ dibs on it after Chrimbo (trees and lights for sale in B&Q already)

      • Wow, that’s great!

        Anyway, great interview. Brilliant to hear that co-op now has a story and I can’t wait to try out the new combat mechanics. I’m also a little surprised that levels don’t load behind cutscenes, I always thought that.

  3. Brilliant review, really interesting.

    • With Adam on this one. Lovely interview and it’s great to see their reasoning and thought processes when key decisions are being made.

      I absolutely adore the total lack of loading screens as it really does make it feel like one long incredible ride.

  4. Great interview, really pleased to hear the puzzles will be better, they really dragged in the last game. Didn’t know about split screen either.. Also, when he’s talking about people caring about the characters, I’ve always found that easier when i have total control, like in Fallout 3, after returning the stradivarius to that old lady, and then reverse pickpocketing her a land mine and stealing all her stuff, i felt pretty bad. But i didn’t really care at all in heavy rain, or L.A. Noire. – too linear

  5. Really good interview. I’m more hyped up than ever now ;)

  6. Oh no! It has an online pass! Brace for crying!

    Place bet now on where the first “I’m not buying it” appears. I’ll go for before page 3.

    • I’m not buying it!!!

      (yeah, course I will. Don’t be daft)

      ;)

      • Doesn’t count if you don’t mean it :P

      • To the extent that anyone who posts “Not buying” actually means it, since clearly they’re full of…

  7. Great interview, Kev. Nice one :D

  8. great interview. always interesting in hearing naughty dog speak out. they seem like really nice guys

  9. awesome interview. great read

  10. Interesting stuff :) One of the few games I really cannot wait for !

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